Academic journal article Asian Social Science

English Usage and Problems of Industrial Pharmacists at Two Large Multi-National Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Thailand

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

English Usage and Problems of Industrial Pharmacists at Two Large Multi-National Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Thailand

Article excerpt


In pharmaceutical industry, insufficient English proficiency of industrial pharmacists in international communication can cause adverse outcomes in the process of overseas product registration and regulatory audits. This study explores English use and problems of 51 industrial pharmacists within two large multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers by using a self-developed questionnaire based on the frameworks of needs analysis (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987) and communicative competence (Canale & Swain, 1980). The findings indicate that reading is the most frequently used skill, followed by writing, listening and speaking, respectively. Specific communicative tasks which Thai industrial pharmacists most commonly performed were: 1) reading emails, 2) writing emails, 3) reading validation protocols/reports, 4) reading pharmacopoeias and pharmaceutical textbooks, and 5) reading procedural documents. A major problem lies within oral communication skills. The implications of the findings show valuable sources of target language events which can benefit ESP educators and pharmaceutical trainers in the development of ESP courses.

Keywords: English communication skills, international communication, industrial pharmacists, English for Specific Purposes, needs analysis

1. Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

In Thailand, the continuing globalization of the pharmaceutical industry, with growth in imports and exports, necessitates an increase in the use of English for communication. Since Thailand has a small number of local pharmaceutical manufacturers, and they have limited production capabilities, the country is unable to produce adequate pharmaceutical products, and therefore depends upon imported products to meet domestic demand. Imports of pharmaceutical products have increased considerably over the last 10 years, and in 2010 accounted for approximately 70% of total domestic drag consumption (Thai Bureau of Drag Control, 2012). Some local manufacturers have increased exports of their products to ASEAN countries, Europe, USA, and others (Department of Trade Negotiations, 2009; IMS Health Thailand, 2011). This growing interdependency within the pharmaceutical industry increases the need of industrial pharmacists to use English for international communication.

Inadequate English proficiency can lead to industrial pharmacists having many problems in their work life. For example, in a manufacturer's certification process by foreign health authorities, industrial pharmacists have to use listening and speaking to welcome, discuss, interact and negotiate with auditors during audit meetings and plant tours. Failures in English communication with foreign auditors may arise during audits, such as the inability to clearly answer questions, offer explanations showing a company's compliance to regulatory requirements, and to properly defend against something which is arguable. The consequences can be adverse audit outcomes, and thus delay the approval process for a manufacturing license (Language is Biggest, 2010). Therefore, English communication problems in the work context of industrial pharmacists should be resolved, in order that they can use English effectively and professionally.

A number of researchers have investigated English usage and problems amongst health professionals, based upon a needs analysis framework. Phutirat & Suwannapatama (2007) and Thongtang (2009) reported the use of four English skills in the daily tasks of hospital pharmacists. However, none of these studies focused upon English communication problems concerning industrial pharmacists. This study aims to identity English use and associated problems concerning Thai industrial pharmacists. The four English communication skills to be investigated are reading, writing, listening and speaking.

1.2 Relevant Scholarship

This section presents a review of relevant literature regarding (a) English for Specific Purposes (ESP), (b) needs analysis, (c) English skills used in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in Thailand, (d) problems of English use in a work context, and (e) previous studies. …

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